Arena

Dennis Phillips, Author Sun & Moon $10.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-55713-127-0
The fragmentary words and phrases strung together in Phillips's (A World) new collection stretch the boundaries of minimalist form in a way that resembles the poetics of the Language school. Isolated lines such as Your interpretation of friendship. / But no one waited or Take a close look at power structures, / integrate them into your life are presented without any obvious context. After reading a few pages, one may see the bits and pieces begin to suggest a common theme: the attempt to locate the self that is lost in American mass culture. Phillips plays with language, tossing in foreign words, juxtaposing words with similar sounds and meanings. As he repeats or varies phrases, associations build. Phillips endows the mundane with new importance in lines like: I mean, who had cut her hair? The tension mounts within this abstract landscape, catching readers unaware. Suddenly it appears that a child has been hit by a car, the police have been called, the speaker is no longer in a city by the ocean, but shipwrecked on an island. Were their form more conventional, these poems would seem didactic; Phillips instead presents a compelling, if difficult, text. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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